Monday, June 11, 2012

Smoke in the Garden

Smoke plumes from the High Park Fire, viewed from Ellie's pasture.

The High Park Fire is not too far away, but not close enough that we have to worry about evacuation. We're south of the fire, and gusts seem to be moving it mostly northward. Right now, it's burned about 37,000 acres, which is around 57 square miles. I cannot imagine what the 400-plus firefighters are facing, but I am grateful that they are there.

As they face life-threatening working conditions, I sit at my computer in a cool, quiet room, sipping on a coffee and prepping to interview an author for an article I'm working on. I cannot keep from checking in at Twitter for fire updates, and find the old Journalism major in me wishing for a scanner to hear what's going on.

In one article I read, a family describes how they moved their horses, llamas, and goats to the evacuation site (The Ranch, in Loveland), but they had to leave their 25 chickens behind. They felt badly about it, but had no way to transport them, and nowhere they felt they could take them. I had been thinking last night, while reading fire updates, that there had to have been chickens left behind.

I know they are chickens. Some 23 million chickens are killed daily for food. So 25 hens lost in a fire that could take out scores of home, may cost residents or firefighters their lives, and has scorched acres of forest and prairie and foothill, are negligible casualties, I know.

Clicking off Twitter, I grab my coffee and go out to water the garden. The smell of smoke has been ever present the last two days, and there has been a regular drone of slurry bombers and other fire-fighting aircraft overhead. But in my garden, peace. Sunshine, cool morning air, and hens.

Before turning the hose on, I let Wilson (the angora rabbit) out into his fenced off portion of the yard, and he hops quickly into the grass and to his favorite shady spot. I brought some leftover veggie scraps out with me, and carry it to where the hens crowd the gate, waiting. I toss the scraps out for them, then walk into the hen yard to get some scratch for them.

Thelma grabs a large piece of lettuce and runs, with Mabel, Violet, and Pip close on her tail feathers in a noisy "gimme gimme" rabble of clucks. The two Jaerhons stop and grab some tomato pieces, and I noted that one of them squatted, wings held out, in a submissive posture meant for a rooster. I knew she was getting close to laying her first egg, and that proves it.

They happily hunt for scratch grains. Pip chases off a dove, Thelma and Louise chase off the Jaerhons, and Clover and Oreo mutter and scratch and eye me for more treats. In the midst of the smoke, all is still well here.

The hens cared for, I water the garden and feel grateful. All of our animals are in their usual places, in their usual routines, and happy. The fire is unlikely to drift in this direction, but its presence makes me think about evacuation plans. I think about what we'd use to transport the hens and the rabbit, something I had never really given a moment's consideration. Family, I'd thought about. Horses, dogs, cats, I'd thought about. But for some reason, the hens and rabbit had seemed like an afterthought--portable enough to carry. But not really, if I stop and think about it.

And I do. I think about emergency measures and plans to talk to the girls about, and items that we might want to keep on hand.

Cool clear water made puddles in the garden, and I let the fire thoughts fade and appreciate this moment of peace and normalcy. It has given me an opportunity to think about what I would do in a moment of chaos, and that planning lessens the worries that I realize have been whirring around since I read about the chickens left behind.

Another plane cut through the blue sky--possibly heading toward the fire. I turn off the hose, pick up my coffee, and turn my thoughts to the day ahead. It's a pretty normal, ho-hum Monday. For which I am abundantly thankful.

1 comment:

  1. Hoping chickens and all unfeathered beings stay safe in your community. We are thinking of you.